In times of austerity, difficult choices must be made, and it is hoped that political leaders will base those decisions on sound information and evidence.
But as the recent “death of evidence” protests indicate, the Conservatives in Ottawa have a poor record in making prudent fiscal choices.
The latest such failure is the Canadian International Development Agency’s intended 33-per-cent cut to tuberculosis treatment funding, in the face of an overall nine per cent budget cut. A lot of debate occurs as to where health funding should go, but public health experts agree TB is not one of them. Tuberculosis is easy and inexpensive to treat, with extremely high success rates.
And the social and economic consequences of cutting back on TB treatment funding are enormous. There are many global hotspots where HIV is treated at a cost approaching $1,000 a year per person, and yet one-quarter of those treated individuals will die of TB, which only costs $20 to treat.
Additionally, inconsistent TB funding has resulted in drug-resistant TB taking hold. It has even been detected in Canada. As SARS taught us, there are no borders to infectious disease.
While the loss of CIDA funding is itself hard to justify given Canada’s enviable economic position in the world, directing a disproportionate amount of this loss on one of the world’s most successful health programs is unjustifiable.
If these cuts continue as planned, this time the “death of evidence” will result in countless real deaths throughout the world.